A Guide to the Very Best Christmas Fixtures…PLUS Our Predictions
December 11, 2017
While the participants in most of Europe’s top football leagues prepare to take a hard-earned break over the festive period, England’s leading clubs will be embarking on a frenetic period in which they’ll play three games between December 23rd and the New Year. In fact, some of the Premier League’s busier teams will play nine games this month across all competitions, creating a bounty of entertainment for fans nationwide.
While some may argue that the lack of a winter of a break is detrimental to the performance of the national team (particularly ahead of the 2018 World Cup), festive football makes for wonderful entertainment and there are certainly some superb games to choose from this year!
In this post, we’ll look at some of the best festive fixtures and ask which sides are likely to prevail?
Festive football kicks off in earnest on Friday, 22nd December, as Arsenal take on Liverpool in what promises to be one of the most exciting games of the Christmas period.
This game could easily be labelled as a clash of the great entertainers, as both sides are attacking in their nature and look to probe their opponents defensive weaknesses. There’s sure to be plenty of those on show too, with both sides having shipped 19 goals and endured heavy defeats in their 15 league matches so far.
The Reds are in particularly impressive form, having scored 15 goals in their last three matches and moved into fourth place in the EPL table. They also thrashed the Gunners 4-0 in the reverse fixture in August, during which the Reds’ pace and power managed to overwhelm Arsenal’s recklessly high defensive line.
A trip to the Emirates will arguably suit Liverpool’s fluent, counter-attacking style, particularly with Arsenal vulnerable to high-pressing and pace in behind (as anyone who saw the recent defeat against Manchester United can testify).
So while the Gunners are sure to create chances against Liverpool’s vulnerable back line, we’re backing Jurgen Klopp’s team to outscore their rivals in a truly entertaining encounter.
Our Verdict: Arsenal 2 Liverpool 3
The following day, Everton will look to continue their initial renaissance under new manager Sam Allardyce when they welcome Chelsea to Goodison Park.
The Toffees were impressive in their first game under Big Sam, as they defeated Huddersfield 2-0 with an efficient display. The club’s second string also beat Apollon Limassol 3-0 in their final Europa League outing, and if they can continue this form they should take on the defending champions with a genuine sense of optimism.
As for Chelsea, they’ve overcome a difficult start to the season and firmly established themselves in third place in the Premier League table. While Antonio Conte’s side may lack the fluency and the consistency of last season, they’ve produced some superb attacking performances this season and have arguably saved their very best form for the road.
Chelsea’s Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard is also coming into excellent form, as his partnership with the improving Alvaro Morata continues to improve with every passing week.
Given this, and even allowing for the Toffees’ new found resilience under Allardyce, it’s hard to see past a Chelsea win here. The West London club will certainly be made to work hard for their win, however, with a victory by the odd goal the most likely outcome here.
Our Verdict: Everton 0 Chelsea 1
Christmas has a tendency to throw up some surprise results, as the leading clubs tend to rotate players and are more likely to see their performances suffer as a result.
This could well be the case at St. James Park on 27th December, when struggling Newcastle entertain Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling Manchester City. While even the most hardened Magpies fan would find it hard to predict a win for their side here, the passion and hostility of the home crowd could well unsettle the Citizens while in Rafa Benitez Newcastle have a tactically-aware manager who’ll definitely have a plan to counter his illustrious opposition.
City’s form has also been derailed slightly since the Halcyon days of autumn, when they were pulverising teams in a run that saw them score six at Watford, five against Liverpool and seven in a remarkable thrashing of Stoke at the Etihad. Despite this and their triumph at Old Trafford earlier this month, their incredible winning run in all competitions was recently ended by Shakhtar Donetsk and their aura of invincibility has faded slightly. So, the Geordies may well enter the game with a little more confidence as a result.
Newcastle also showed tremendous attacking intent on the break against Manchester United and Chelsea last month, and with a little more defensive organisation they could utilise this to counter City’s high and vulnerable defensive line.
So, while the logic points to an away win here, we’re backing a coupon-busting win for a determined and motivated home side.
Our Verdict: Newcastle 1 Manchester City 0
Not only do Arsenal kick-off the festive period by hosting Liverpool, but they also bring to a close by entertaining Chelsea at the Emirates. This concludes a difficult run of game for the Gunners, with these fixtures sandwiching tricky trips to West Brom and an ever-improving Crystal Palace side.
These two sides played out a tense and turgid 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture, as Chelsea struggled for fluency and Arsenal managed to remain unusually compact and resolute in defence. The Blues have been far more fluid and potent on the road, however, while Arsenal’s desire to play on the front foot at home will certainly create a more open game.
This will probably suit Chelsea, whose meld of defensive organisation and movement on the counter-attack will provide the perfect blueprint for success against a talented but often tactically-naive Arsenal side.
Sure, they’ll concede chances to Arsenal’s exceptional front line, but they’re also likely to create plenty of their own with Hazard and Morata marauding forward on the break. We’re backing them to take more than they miss too, inflicting a second festive defeat on the Gunners in the process.